Originally Posted December 30, 2021.
It is a sleepy Thursday here in New Germany as Tyler and I spend the day lazily making breakfast, walking the trails with Abby, making grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Tyler is now settled into his newest game, playing a choose-your-own-adventure version of Dungeons and Dragons while I post about our first month of winter here in Nova Scotia.
Our First Snowfall
We had our first big snowfall early in December, one that took over local headlines and warned of massive power outages. I forgot to get our storm chips but battened down the hatches and got ready to start my pre-planned shifts of sleep to watch the barn and make sure the roof held up under the snow load. While getting up at 4 am to shovel snow is about as glorious as it sounds, there was something quite peaceful about repeatedly pulling the long handle back and forth over the roof until it was all gone. I only had to go out twice in the end, once at 11 pm and then again at 4 am to remove about 6 inches of accumulated snow. The most laborious part of it is not the shoveling, but lifting the long 20-foot ladder onto the lower side of the barn, mostly because I am not strong enough to do it alone. As Tyler had to go into work the next day, it was my job to shovel the roof off and I, unfortunately, had to pull him out of bed at 11 pm to help me reset the ladder the first time. After that, I was able to manage to pull it around the second time once I thought ahead a little bit and just shuffled it down the barn instead of lowering it completely. One day I will be strong enough to lift it up by myself, but until then I will have to depend on the extra helping hands.
Each time I went out I checked on our goats, Fran and Jan, to make sure they looked warm, had access to unfrozen water and lots of hay. They looked mostly irritated at me for shining my flashlight in their faces as they pulled their heads up from sleep.
After vigorously removing the snow the second time, I was too awake to fall back asleep, so I ended up catching up on my blog posts about the summer adventures we had and ended up being ready to walk out to the road with Tyler so I could help him shovel out the car and be on his way to work. Walking down the 1.5 km to the road in a foot of snow was beautiful and eerie and made me fall in love with Nova Scotia all over again.
I am pretty sure my walk back into the farm took 102030404 times longer than it should have because I couldn't stop taking photos. It is a real pleasure to see how much the landscape changes with each season. â
And, as we are learning, in true Nova Scotia fashion, the snow was gone within 24 hours. That 30 cm of snow was followed by 40 cm of rain and everything washed away and was warm again. Our truck still couldn't manage to get through the soft ground and ice combination without our 4WD working, so we continued to hike in and out of the property on foot, which, while slightly inconvenient, is still quite a lovely walk.
Bridgewater Holiday Markets
Way back in July when we first bought our property, I thought that I might like to sign up to sell some of the art I had left in stock from my first (and only) art show last December at Musiikki Cafe in Kingston. Over the past few years, I have been trying to dedicate more energy and time to my art and I have been pretty pleased with the style that has been emerging purely by trial and error.
Of course, now that we owned an old Christmas tree farm, it only seemed right to try to foster some of my love for decorating into making funky urns and centerpieces as well, just to see whether this was something I would enjoy doing or if it would even sell well in our area, the Christmas Tree Capital of Canada (it's true, there's even a sign).
The only farmer's market that we had been to was the Bridgewater Farmer's Market, so I looked up to see if they did a special Holiday market, and indeed they did. So I signed up for all 5 weeks back in July, not really anticipating that with the delays in building the barn my work might be bottlenecked in November.
Of course, that first week of getting ready for the first market was a little bit intense. I still had to finish raking out the most recent delivery of gravel for the base of the barn and move the trailer into the barn before even thinking about making holiday decorations. For this, I called upon the mighty mind of my sister Petra, who gave me the pep talk of the year and told me I just needed to channel the energy of her former 20-year-old self that was renowned in our family for its general badassery. You know what? The unconditional support of my sister worked (should I be surprised?!). I managed to move the full 12 yards of gravel by myself in just one day.
Then I had to cut brush and put together enough urns and arrangements. In retrospect, Tyler and I had a lovely morning cutting all the different types of brush and collecting pine cones and moss. We collected over 15 varieties of plants that day and boy, did it ever show us how rich our property was when it came to decorating for the holidays. We found red alder, white and red pine, blue spruce, hemlock, juniper, lichens, pinecones, and more.
I had to pull out all of my art and market supplies that were packed not quite as nice as I remember packing them back in May. I could not find some of my display items, so I had to decide to either make an additional stop or just go without them (I went without). I also had to figure out how to build a decent-looking display without spending extra dollars on it since this was supposed to be a moneymaker and not a money taker. But again, I obsessively thought about it while I was raking gravel and by the time it came to putting together a stall, I was able to approach the project with a clear idea and the determination of a person who has little time to procrastinate. â
Attending the actual markets was a real pleasure. Our market stall seemed to be a real hit, especially because we opted into the Christmas spirit with lots of musical favorites from Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. We also met a bunch of wonderful people from the area, whether it was the other vendors or customers coming through. After months of mainly meeting people who had also moved here from away, it felt nice to be a part of the existing community.
Even more of a surprise to me, my art was more popular than the greenery. I thought for sure it would be the other way around, but it did make the rest of the market stint run more smoothly because I have my art production down to a science compared to making urns. Plus it brings me genuine joy and happiness to see that other people may enjoy the art I enjoy painting or drawing. So thanks, everyone!
Road-Trip to Ontario
Also unexpectedly, we got a call from Tyler's parents in early December to let us know that Tyler's grandfather received a new diagnosis and that the prospect did not look good. They encouraged us to come home for the holidays to say goodbye as soon as it was possible. We ended up packing it in right after the final market on December 19 to head home by car. A big shout out to our friends Vic and Brynn and Verena and Bert for caring so kindly for our goats and allowing us the luxury of leaving the farm for a week.
We took four-hour shifts and managed to get to Ontario in just 16 hours. The roads out of the Maritimes were a little worse for wear, but it wasn't anything the mighty Red Rocket could not handle.
Tyler and I arrived at Petra and Eric's house late on the 20th and did a rapid test in isolation before coming into the main house to visit. The next morning we went to the hospital and spent some time with Grandpa saying goodbye. It's hard not to feel like he was waiting to say goodbye to Tyler and his brother Nick as he died later that night during his sleep. You can read Grandpa's obituary here.
Tyler has many fond memories with his grandfather, many of which I have heard over time. There were weekend visits every week to Brockville where his grandparents would take him to the park and maybe even get a sweeter treater. Grandpa always indulged Tyler's sweet tooth with double chocolate birthday cakes. There was the ridiculously oversized photo of Tyler as a baby that hung over the bed of their guest room (We are talking like a solid 2.5 feet wide by 1.5 feet tall) that we have now inherited and will live on awkwardly in our guest room. There were many, many stories about his life as a police officer and his favorite partner (Dick Ryder...jokes ensue...) and the years before that when he worked up north on the railroads and as a young man taking care of his family while his dad was away fighting in World War 2.
Saying goodbye is always hard, but Tyler's parents were able to spend the last year of his life with him providing him with care and attention that many only get to dream of. We have many moments of his life, like his carved ducks, many paintings, and books that will help us keep him present with us as we build our farm here (100% he would love).
The rest of our visit we spent with Petra and Eric, which included meeting our new niece, baby Alice, and catching up on life with my girlfriends (in a socially distanced, socially acceptable kind of way). We also got to enjoy a nice day with Tyler's parents and his Aunt Mary Ann and shared Christmas dinner before heading home on boxing day. We are so grateful to our family for hosting us, feeding us and spoiling us with unlimited hot showers and warm cozy beds.
Closing in on 2021Tomorrow we are saying goodbye to 2021 and starting a new year. Driving home from Ontario, I had a lot of time to reflect on where we were and where we are headed. Choosing to move away from everyone and everything was really hard but the longer we are here building a life for ourselves the more it feels like we are contributing to something real, that is material and that will help us have security and comfort in the long term. As a millennial, I think my general feeling of dismay and continued disappointment at coming into adulthood is shared by many who wanted more for themselves than what was on the table. I don't know if we will be successful, but I have confidence in our ability to be flexible and to keep trying. I think that the warm feeling I get from this prospect is actually what we call hope and it has been a pretty long time since I have felt anything like it. So cheers to a new year and we sincerely hope you can find some authenticity and maybe even a glimmer of hope in your life in the coming months too.
Happy Holidays from both of us!
Tiki & Tito
ps. My next post is about some exciting news we had to share in the New Year!
Just two working class kids living off-grid. Follow us on our journey building a sustainable farm and butcher shop in the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.